Friday, December 22, 2006


Furniture, the usually movable articles in a room that equip it for use. The most common pieces of furniture are beds, chairs, tables, and chests.


Florentine Cabinet-on-Stand This elaborate bureau is a Florentine ebony cabinet-on-stand, made about 1708. The designer, Giovanni Battista Foggini, trained as a sculptor in Rome. The piece features pietre dure panels, gilt-bronze mounts, and red marble pilasters.

Historically, the most common material for making furniture has been wood, but other materials, such as metal and stone, have also been used. Furniture designs have reflected the fashion of every era from ancient times to the present. Whereas in most periods a single style dominated, a wide variety of old and new styles influences current design. Some of the most highly prized pieces of furniture used in contemporary homes, however, are antiques—pieces anywhere from 50 to 300 or more years old. Today the most astute designers are eclectic, and furniture ranges from innovative designs to adaptations of historical models for special needs, including carefully made reproductions based on early examples.

Some surviving ancient Egyptian examples are elaborate and were originally sheathed in gold...
Even the basic requirements of furniture design are complex, for appearance has always been as important as function, and the general tendency has been to design furniture to complement architectural interiors. Indeed, some furniture forms were conceived architecturally, with legs designed as columns; others were at least in part anthropomorphic, with legs in animal forms. Furniture design ranges from simple to elaborate, depending on the pieces’ intended use rather than on the period in which they were made. The earliest records, such as ancient Mesopotamian inventories, describe richly decorated interiors with gold cloth and gilded furniture. Some surviving ancient Egyptian examples are elaborate and were originally sheathed in gold, but many very plain pieces were also made in ancient times. In the history of furniture, however, the elegant work takes precedence because in general it has been the best preserved. In addition, elaborate designs reveal the most about a period because high style changes more frequently than other styles to reflect new ideas. The simplest work, made for the farmer or laborer, tends to be more purely functional and timeless; tables and chairs used by working people in 1800 bc are surprisingly like tables and chairs in farmhouses of ad 1800. Dutch genre paintings of the 1600s and early 19th-century American paintings depict rural interiors that often look remarkably similar.
Bed (furniture), platform designed for rest or sleep. Today, a bed usually consists of a bedstead, or supporting frame, a spring, and a mattress. Substantial evidence exists that beds were popular among the ruling classes of Egypt, Babylonia, and Persia. After the 7th century bc Greek bedsteads and couches were inlaid or veneered with ivory, tortoiseshell, and precious metals, and sometimes provided with feet of solid silver or gold. Luxurious beds, similar to those in Greece, were made by the Etruscans. Two funeral bedsteads, veneered in ivory, were found by archaeologists in Etruscan tombs of the 4th and 3rd centuries bc. The beds of the Romans were characterized by extreme simplicity until the dissolution of the Republic. Thereafter they surpassed in splendor those of the Persians, Greeks, and Etruscans.

Beds of bronze tubing, similar to the brass beds of a later era, were made in the 8th century during the time of Charlemagne. During the 12th and 13th centuries virtually all baronial mansions and castles were equipped with beds, which steadily increased in size and luxury. By the 15th century, beds, notably those used by royalty, attained enormous proportions. Immense canopies, suspended over the beds from the ceilings or walls, became popular. Subsequently, the canopies were attached to columns affixed to the corners of the bedsteads, a modification that led to the four-poster of later times. In the 17th and 18th centuries, during the reigns of the French kings Louis XIV, who owned 413 beds of all types, and Louis XV, the art of fine bed construction reached a peak, combining graceful design, fantastic ornamentation, and beautiful coloring. The extreme ostentation that characterized the beds of former times gradually disappeared as mass production made beds available to all classes, effectively ending their fashionableness. Although elaborate beds, such as four-posters, are still in use, the beds of today generally are constructed for comfort and simplicity of design.

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